Munich-based photographer Robert Götzfried remembers the bowling alleys—or Kegelbahn— of his childhood, where kids could be heard laughing and shouting to the ever-present thud of a six pound ball hitting the floor. These days, the once-popular alleys are slowly disappearing, and this generation of youngsters are choosing more high-tech, less nostalgic pastimes; still, the photographer preserves their legacy.
Bowling in Germany has a nuanced history; some scholars, like historian William Pehle, say the sport began as early as 300 C.E. as a German religious activity. The pins were said to symbolize sins, and knocking them over with rocks was seen a way of purging crimes against God.
Nine-pin bowling, known as kegel in Germany, is a bit different from the American game, played with ten pins. In kegel, the pins are spaced farther apart, in the shape of a diamond rather than a pyramid. At most, the dense wooden balls have only two finger holes, not three, though the best players don’t need any holes at all.
Götzfried photographed the kegelbahn without the presence of any bowlers, capturing the symmetry and geometries of their unique yet somehow repetitive designs. He visited the alleys on off-hours, relaxing as he peered over the hallowed lanes. Whereas these places were once vibrating with sound, he finds solitude and serenity in the absence of scurrying feet, rolling balls, and colliding pins.
In these meticulous and minimal photographs, Götzfried distills all the energy of the bowling alley into a single, clean frame. The action has stopped for now, and yet we can sense that in mere moments, the kegelbahn might come alive once more, rekindling the memories of long ago.
More work from Götzfried can be seen on Offset, a boutique licensing agency specializing in high-end editorial and commercial imagery from around the world.
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